This initiative was originally the idea of Craig O’Regan who just tried a bunch of crazy ideas and this one STUCK! It took 6 long months to materialize this expedition with ample drama behind the scenes as all expeditions are and has resulted in this:
The above is a link called Curry, Cats and Chaos by Mark Dapin to mark the beginning of a string of articles that will hit the Australian Media in the next few weeks. We have already started getting inquiries about trips to Bangladesh as a result of this article, so promotion actually works huh?
Sarah Shields of mg media mentioned some interesting facts saying the outreach in the newspapers was possibly worth close to half a million dollars worth. Interesting
We would like to thank the celebrity journalists Mark Dapin, Paul Sheehan, Helen Anderson, Gillian Cumming, Kelly Irving and Joanna Tovia for taking the time to visit us in Bangladesh and cannot contain the excitement of the articles that are soon to be published. Thank you! We miss you tons and hope you will visit us again SOOOON!
We are very grateful for the opportunity to host the fun group of journalists and look forward to Australians taking on Bangladesh as one of their favorite destinations!
Experience Bangladesh in the US, Bangladesh, and Australia with the help of their partons/sponsors like Pan Pacific, Ajiyer, Jatrik etc. made this a “idea” a reality after months of planning and contingency plans rolled out by the Experience Bangladesh teams.
Here are some excerpts of memorable conversations between Experience Bangladesh and the journalists through out the trip:
Joanna, like each of the journalists sat next to me on the road trips for 2 hrs to ask about the essence of Sustainable living in Bangladesh and why Experience Bangladesh does all that they do every day. Sarah attempted to explain concepts of ancestral energy in the villages that is the anchor of “Meaningful Travel” and laid out the steps of spiritual awakening that travelers experience to the core.
As she walked through the villages of Tangail and then met the women in Sundarban, she whispered, ” I see what you meant by feeling the generosity of spirit and the innocence of the people” that moves you.
Paul Sheehan used one phrase throughout the trip whenever he spoke to me, “I am feeling very protective of you”. This was his way to showing what he later understood as “Maya”. By the end of the trip he hugged the Experience Bangladesh team and said, “I feel Maya for you.” As he used his intuition to find the path back to the boat from Laodep, where we went to meet the women from the MRDI project, he commented, “Now I understand why you are so passionate about highlighting Bangladesh and why its so important to preserve the way of life of these people.”
He enjoyed the trip to the fullest, always the first to join a dance mob, the last to leave the table after relishing every bite on his plate, the first to start a conversation with strangers and the one who asked the most difficult questions on the group : )
Helen Anderson sent us an email raving about the National Assembly Building and how envious her architect friends were of her for going to the land where this magnificent structure stood. Our Experience Bangladesh got to work in a heart beat and Samad pulled out rabbits out of his bag of tricks making is possible for all of us to not only visit the Parliament Building, private tour and all, but also managed a luncheon in the auspicious compound. The parliamentary session chamber was a “goosebump” experience for all of us. Throughout the trip, Helen bonded with the team asking deep philosophical questions about what sustainable tourism meant for Bangladesh. We found ourselves simply saying, “Its all we have got and the ONLY way we can practice tourism”.
Gillian Cumming talked about her love of gourmet cooking. She stopped us dead in our tracks when she casually mentioned making “Gulap Jamoon” from scratch 30 years ago. This is just a small example of the calm and elegant feminine power she holds and used to roll out the endless news inserts and magazines in the past 17 years. She quickly took down a recipe of our traditional beef curry that takes 2 hours to cook and smiled, “Now I have something authentic to cook for the gathering as soon as I get back!”
The trip to Sundarban was about a lot more than l”ooking for the tiger and finding the jungle” as my friend Daleep Akoi calls it. Visiting the MRDI project where women that used to rely solely on fishing in the Sundarban, selling “Gol Patha” indigenous palm leaves and honey catching, now sell artistically embroidered goods that is a safer profession, gives them access to additional revenue and helps them preserve their mangrove forest; opened their eyes to what sustainable living practices looked like in the everyday lives of the people of Sundarban.
The Wild Team Project in Chadpai was equally rewarding with a live demonstration at the exact site of where the night patrol guard the village from tigers. We had an enthusiastic volunteer of the First Response team act as an actual tiger!
Our wildlife experts Najm Sheikh and Bachchu bhai took us out at the crack of dawn for bird watching and called out names of birds from their calls.
The trip ended with a farewell dinner at the Australian High Commissioners’ Mr Greg Wilcock and Ms Wilhelmina van Beers, for a night of partying hard, live music and a lot of dancing!
Even though ITB Berlin is a hard core trade fair for B2B market, the fair opens up to the public on the 10th of March.You can find us at:
Here is a video interview that the partners of Experience Bangladesh gave BDesh TV in Berlin.
Sarah Siddiqi & Najm Sheikh of Experience Bangladesh in ITB Berlin 2012
The interview discussed the outlook of Bangladesh as a spot for tourism, the endless possibilities and the ways of “meaningful travel” it offers as a point of differentiation for travelers.
Nirvana is often sought after in places like Tibet or India with traveling the path of Buddha with days of meditation at monasteries in silence at the foot of the Himalayas, or yoga at ashrams in India. How about a very unexpected journey to seek Nirvana, a path with mysteries sequence of sites and facts, a path that allows you to seek Nirvana that match the teaching of the humbling wise Buddha, no golden temples, no gems, just evidence after evidence of where it all began making you feel like you are among a handful to connect these precious dots…
The 400 Buddhist ruins in Bangladesh researched by Archeologists and scholars, from internationally famous Vihara, such as at Paharpur and Jahagadal, South Asia’s largest walled city site at Bhitagarh, to the Ashokan pillar near Joypurhat, affirm the lands of the Ganges Delta as the cradle of Buddhism.
Revival of Buddhism in Tibet from Bengal:
A Bangladeshi born monk, Atish Depanker of the 12th century, responded to an invitation from the King of Tibet to leave his Vihara at Vikrampur, near Dhaka, and head north up the waters of the Brahmaputra to help restore Buddhism in Tibet. It was he who laid the foundations for what is now identified as the home of Tantric Buddhism.
Roots of Yoga?
If Yoga, too, is said to derive from Buddhist and Hindu traditions, then it is likely that these lands which are now Bangladesh, with its tradition of coexistence and cross fertilization between belief groups, is likely to be where that, too, developed. Terracotta panels at many Hindu and Buddhist sites, dating from the early first millennium appear to confirm that belief.
Ashokan Pillar of 3 BCE
Traveller can inhale the essence of Nirvana at the ruins of the pillar erected by the 3rd century BCE Mauryan Emperor Ashoka to mark where the Buddha, himself, taught, which stands, unlike other such pillars around South Asia, close to the site of an ancient Vihara, in the middle of rice fields!
By Tim Steele
It was the sixth Mughal Emperor, Aurangzeb, who is said to have described the lands of the Ganges Delta, the estuary of three great rivers, Brahmaputra, Meghna and Ganges, as ‘the paradise of nations’, for its wealth and trade, with Dhaka as its capital.
The wealth generated, particularly, by what we now know as the , UNWTO recognised, ‘Southwest Silk Road’, and the attraction of the delta to merchants from across the known world, from at least the middle of the first millennium BCE, saw the development of a rich heritage of philosophical and artistic achievement over thousands of years.
Tales from Alexander to Shakespeare
Writers, from 4th century BCE Megasthenes, to whom it was clear that the aim of Alexander the Great in invading India, was to conquer the kingdom that had grown in the delta lands, Gangaridai, through Pliny, Plutarch, Strabo, and even Virgil, celebrating the part played by men of Gangaridai in a Roman victory in about 50BC, amongst others, to Shakespeare’s oblique reference to the late 16th century journey by Ralph Fitch, and even Daniel Defoe’s eponymous hero, Robinson Crusoe’s last adventure in these lands, pay tribute to the rich traditions.
Cradle Of Buddhism
There is little doubt that, in these lands, Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism flowered, and the remains of over 400 Buddhist Vihara identify it is as the probable, elusive, ‘Cradle of Buddhism, but especially, the birthplace of the Mahayana School, whose Tantric and Yogic traditions were taken, in the 12th century, by Bangladeshi born monk, Atish Depanker, when he was called to Tibet to restore the Buddhist tradition there.
Melting Pot of Faiths
Ancient maps, writing, and archaeology confirm the ancient trading center, once referred to, in 3rd century, by the Roman historian, Dionysius Periegetes, as ‘devoted to Bacchus’, but it is certainly the strong, interfaith tradition that confirms it. Home grown were the ancient belief groups, but there is evidence that Islam, too, arrived in the lifetime of the Prophet, and, even if the Buddhist tradition developed here was not responsible for informing the teachings of Christ, Christian nations, also attracted by the trade, arrived in the 15th century.
A rich fusion of art, music, writing, philosophy, in one of the world’s earliest centers of commercial initiative, from which, in more recent years, has come the world leading economic initiatives, such as Micro finance and Gender equality programs.
A tour of the Sundarbans is equal parts peaceful and adventurous. On the one hand, you are far removed from the hustle and bustle of the city; the only traffic fishing boats on the rivers and the incessant horn honking is replaced by bird calls. On the other, you’re visiting a jungle, complete with predatory wildlife including the famed Royal Bengal Tiger.
Even if you don’t spot any tell-tale stripes, there is still plenty of wildlife to make traveling the Sundarban Forest interesting. The birds alone are worth the journey. Hundreds of species of birds call the Sundarbans home, to hear all their unique voices is something you won’t soon forget. There are 8 species of Kingfishers alone, not to mention Parakeets, Herons, Pelicans, and Storks. If you are even remotely interested in Bird Watching, a trip to the Sundarban Forest is a must.
If you’re hoping to see animals of the four-legged variety, you will not be disappointed. Chital deer are frequently spotted dashing gracefully amongst the trees while crocodiles roam the banks and small monkeys climb through the leafy branches above.
Some of the most impressive wildlife aren’t in the sky or the grass, they’re in the freshwater streams and rivers that wind through the forest. Keep your eye trained on the water and you might catch sight of a Fresh Water Dolphin. These dolphins are smaller than their salt water cousins, but no less acrobatic or impressive. They are however one of the most endangered species of the Sundarban Forest and in the world. In late 2011 the government of Bangladesh declared three separate areas of the Sundarban Forest as dolphin sanctuaries in an effort to protect the elegant river animals and hopefully encourage the species growth.
One of the most interesting animals to spot on a tour of the Sundarban Forest is the Mudskipper. Aptly named, this fish is just as active on land, or in the mud, as it is in water. In fact, it’s completely amphibious. These adaptive fish use their fins to move on land, in a skipping motion. They are also quite strong, able to flip their bodies up to two feet in the air. Truly a marvel to observe.
But a Sundarban Tour in Bangladesh isn’t just for observing wildlife in their natural habitat. A truly knowledgeable Sundarban Forest Guide will not only know the rivers and animals, but the people as well. A guide with the right contacts can arrange for you to tag along on an Otter Fishing trip. For generations fishermen in the area have been breeding and training Otters to help them bring in a larger catch. This can lead to another of the best experiences of Traveling the Sundarban: The Food! A meal in the Sundarbans will likely contain some of the freshest foods you have ever consumed. Dine on fish caught that day from the very rivers you are traveling on.
As the world’s largest mangrove forest the Sundarbans holds an important ecological distinction. Twenty-seven of the fifty varieties of mangrove trees are found in the Sundarban forests. Unfortunately, the very fertile soil as well as the value of timber means that humans have been progressively encroaching on this fragile habitat. In recent years the government as well as various non-profit organizations have taken steps to protect the area.
The tamer among us can travel the waterways and Tour the Sundarban Forest by passenger boat, a virtual traveling hotel run by Bangladesh tour companies. For the adventurous, the Sundarbans offer unparalleled hiking and trekking opportunities. Whichever style of travel you prefer be sure to consider not only safety, but the environmental impact of your visit. In either instance, you should travel with an expert guide to the Sundarbans in order to get the most out of your experience, and as with any natural treasure, endeavor to leave the area as you have found it.
Whether you hope to spot a wild animal, experience an ecological marvel, have a grand adventure, or even just relax while taking in the beautiful flora and fauna, a visit to the Sundarban Forest in Bangladesh is a true experience.
1. The Varendra Research Museum in Rajshahi
The oldest museum in Bangladesh, this small repository predates the country itself. Founded in 1910 and maintained by Rajshahi University the Varendra museum has an emphasis on sculpture and statuary; much of the collection was donated by the Rajahs of the area. With an open courtyard and several side rooms, the highlights of this collection are certainly the carved sculptures of Buddhas and Boddhistavas. Each remarkable artifact was carved from a single piece of stone, some of the results are five and six feet tall. These are pieces that would have decorated places of study and meditation as well as small local shrines. Visitors will notice that each piece is numbered, a catalog of the collection is available for purchase for those who would wish further investigation.
2. Golden Temple
Perched atop a hill in the Bandarban, approximately 70 miles from Chittagong, sits the largest contemporary Buddhist temple in Bangladesh: The Golden Temple. This Theravada temple is notable not only for its size and sheen, but also because it contains a dhatu, a relic of the Buddha. The dhatu was given to the Venerable U Pannya Jota Thera by the Government of Myanmar in 1994 and the temple construction completed in 2000. The temple also contains the second largest statue of the Buddha in the country. A breathtaking site, the Golden Temple is a destination for both pilgrims and tourists
3. Ruins of Paharpur Vihara
Of course a list on Buddhism in Bangladesh must contain the UNESCO World Heritage Site Paharpur. The ruins of this Vihara in Naogaon are spectacular enough to mark it as the largest Vihara in South-East Asia. Known as Somapura during its time, the Vihara was thriving from the 7th Century through the 12th. Architectural evidence points to an even earlier establishment date, with bricks dating back to the first century Before the Common Era (BCE). The Vihara was a center of education and was known as the Great Monastery. Its design influenced vihara architecture in Cambodia as well as other parts of the sub-continent. Like many larger-than-life locations, it is difficult to do justice to Paharpur with photos, a visit is definitely a must.]]>
1. Watching (and helping!) artists hand-paint a silk sari in Rajshahi.
2. Getting caught in an abrupt downpour while walking home from work during the rainy season.
3. Gazing over rice fields while women in bright saris and men in colorful lungis harvest the grain.
4. Sitting still for hours while beautiful designs were drawn on my hands with Henna.
5. Listening to the wind blow through Hemnagor Rajbari, feeling as if I stepped back in time while exploring the courtyards and hallways.
6. Shopping for bangles and bindis at Bashundara City.
7. Marveling at history and pondering the overlapping of religions at the Varendra Museum in Rajshahi.
8. Learning to swear in Bangla!
9. Walking through carnival-esque streets after a cricket match.
10. Having my face painted with turmeric and wearing more marigolds than I could count at a Bridal Shower and then donning a red sari and gold jewelry for my wedding.]]>
This video shared by a friend got us thinking as to why we originally embarked on the path of “Experience Bangladesh”. Yes, like most people chant in this industry, “We are in the business of creating Happiness” is true. However, there is one umbrella theme for nurturing this initiative in a country that is relatively new to the world in terms of “publicity” and is a gold mine to the world as a “Land of Experiential Learning”.
This RSA video talks about how children are subjected to standardized testing that don’t measure all the ways they are talented, or account for the different learning styles. It talked about how the West medicates children for not fitting in to their set molding of learning a.k.a ADHD (attention Deficit Disorder), pills that desensitize children from being excited about their environment, dulls their senses to “calm” them and call that “focus”. The only reconciliation to this mass system of education is “home schooling” that is actively practiced by a fraction of the population and is not yet a scalable method of teaching.
We had started Experience Bangladesh as our journey of Experiential learning by being a catalyst, a facilitator for collaboration and self discovery in Bangladesh, so our guests can engage in learning how ideas are processed in an emerging market and innovating with them.
Every experience on the journeys are painstakingly designed to help our guests, learn about themselves through stories of people in a land with documented history dating back 3000 years, to get them in touch with the essence of the human spirit, to stimulate all their senses for heightened learning, catering to their pace of learning.
The pictures below represent experiential learning through daily activities. They are not pictures of what some may interpret as examples of child labor. They are pictures of “experiential learning”, while mud fishing with friends near Borishal, enjoying a precious comical moment with a friend while carrying pineapples to her home in the hill tracts of Bandarban etc.
Learning through practical examples, using your hands, touching and feeling, smelling the fresh earth and helping your parents with “Trade” are just some of the ways of Experiential learning that children and adults use to master their life lessons. These kinds of experiences are most effective through the power of association, relevance, positive and with nature, away from standardized tests, and single dimensional markers of judging who is a genius and who is not.
Experience Bangladesh is here to help you rediscover the genius in you. It gives us a sense of purpose and it is truly humbling to be a part of the world of Experiential Learning in Bangladesh. We create nothing, its all here. We simply package the goodness
Like the article mentioned preparing for a long trip like I do as well, for 3-4 months at a time:
What do you do about the following?
Whether you are on a short trip or a long trip to any Asian countries including Bangladesh, stepping out of the hotel and walking to a dry cleaners is your best bet. You wont find too many laundry mats here and getting your clothes washed and pressed will cost less than 30- 50 cents a piece.
Drinking bottled water in always the way to go. Tap water in never really an option when traveling in Asia and in Bangladesh. If you want to be overly cautious, you can always buy the water tablets and stick them in your bottle. When traveling in the villages, tube well water is very safe to drink since the water is extracted from deep in the ground free of impurities and chemicals.
Consider carrying a credit card that has an annual fees to maintain but charges no ATM or foreign transaction fees. Good news is, your cash advance from credit cards will work in most places no matter how remote.
The number one “supply” I have needed when traveling is an prong adapter to attach to my Laptop or phone plug. You can find travel adapter/prongs that allow you to switch from a 2-prong to a 3 prong with a flip. These come in real handy when your phone is about to die on your. Investing in battery packs for your cameras and phones are always a great idea as well. In many places in Asia, the voltage used is 220 as opposed to 110v. Its always to check to see that your electronic device and handle the conversion of voltage. Otherwise, you will need a travel convertor as well.
On a completely different note, the other supply that is appreciated is a “hand sanitizer” gel. This comes in handy esp. when you have settled for a bite to eat, a snack etc. since you are eating on the run when traveling. This small practice can help keep your tummy safe and happy, so never leave home without it.
A lot of hotels will have wifi and even if the reception isn’t the greatest in your rooms, it always works and is usually FREE of charge at the hotel lobbies. Yes, carrying your own tablet or laptop works best so you can remain connected to the world esp. to share all the cool pictures your take on your journey to make your friends wish they were there with you!
There are a few tricks to make the most of secondary transport in many countries in Asia as well as in Bangladesh. Usual rule of thumb: Get a buddy to ride with you when you take a cab, or bus esp. at night. Always get to a well lit area when waiting for a cab. Get your hotel to mark all the bus stops on your map. Ride a rickshaw for short distances esp. during rush hour so that they can maneuver through the streets and squish through traffic to get you to your destination faster. Get a ferry schedule on your way to your destination and the ferry guard’s phone number, so you can call him to ask what time the ferry leaves on your way back, so you can avoid long waits.
When traveling, all you can think of is the weight of things when you have your travel back home. Some best value and maximum impact gifts from Bangladesh include a hand fan (Haath Pakka), a nakshikatha silk natural dye scarf, silver earrings, clay jewelery, a piece of rickshaw art, and freshwater pearls. Why are they best value? Because these gifts range from $6 to $50 and the “wow” factor is memorable for your friends and family.